Director in Training, part two: Casting, rehearsing, and performance
April 25, 2017
Francine Morgan was one of nine young theatre-makers participating in this year’s StoneCrabs Young Directors Training Programme. In this second article about the experience, she touches on casting, heavy-handed directing, and mentorship.
Looking back over the past six months, time has flown by. When you’re facing challenges and feeling stuck in new and difficult situations, sometimes you can’t wait for things to keep moving, but on reaching the end, you wish you’d taken in the view and smelt the flowers a bit more.
One month later, all that’s left is to reflect on how things went for me and my fellow directors on StoneCrabs trainee director programme as it comes to an end. The three night festival, which we named Stomping Ground, combined an eclectic mix of plays and took place from Wednesday 15- Friday 17 March 2017. Writing after winding down, after the very busy week and period leading up to the festival, I am able to look even further back on some other things that led up to it.
I have never before been on the hiring side of anything and as such found it a great shock to be suddenly in this position when finding actors for the play. It was nerve wracking to find talent for the play I was directing—The Shawl by David Mamet—and also decide on the best method to assess who would fit. Additionally, trying to remain professional at all times, perhaps too strictly when things needed a lighter touch. A stumbling block in the rehearsal process (a mix up with the room) left things a little haphazard, but I eventually got back on track. I chose a workshop setting to see the actors, which would be a cast of three, interact together, improvising based on the themes or ideas in the text. I was able to think more creatively in contrast to the practical approach needed to produce the festival. The StoneCrabs mentors offered their assistance during the process, as did my fellow trainees, so whilst it was fully exploratory treading new territory, I was able to bounce ideas off others to get a better perspective.
I found this mentorship to be really important in a position that could feel lonely at times, and also feel it is something that can and should be created outside of a training setting. Through finding and working with artists you can rely on for advice, a critical eye, or a listening ear, you can build a trusting environment in which to create and tweak your work.
At the start of rehearsals, the time available felt eternal. What would I do for the 6 days I had? Perhaps I’d hear a read-through and simply say, that’s fine, but this thought soon disappeared—everything takes longer than expected in the rehearsal room. I had drafted a rehearsal plan with a range of exercises, and back ups if things didn’t work and generally stuck to this with a few spontaneous exercises thrown in. When nerves or practicalities of time didn’t take over, I found it useful to keep in mind the unique situation I was in—that this combination of people at this time, working on this play would never occur again, so to treat it as such. Being dictatorial was never going to be my style, so I wanted to make sure to have the actors’ involvement and value their input from the start. The ideas I had for the play couldn’t stand alone, they could only be a part of the bigger picture—being stringently stuck on an idea without letting things evolve was, in my view, a recipe for failure. So, whilst time went by quickly, I found my feet and found my flow.
Outside of rehearsals we all spread the word about the festival, sourced props and furniture (as much as we could afford having been rejected by Arts Council a second time), and prepared any sound or music we would use, readying ourselves for the festival.
And, things went well, audiences were full, actors were happy, we raised extra money for StoneCrabs shaking buckets on the night and generally felt well-supported by family, friends, fellow trainees, and StoneCrabs artists. Most of all, there was a sense of achievement.
I know now that I have the skills and the confidence to pursue directing without fear of failure and with the knowledge that there are many others like me, getting by trying things out without every single detail and outcome planned and predicted. We’re all in a place where we’re ready for the next venture and eager to make our mark. So whatever’s next, bring it on!
Filed under: Theatre & Dance